Selling Pointers for Craigslist

by Elizabeth Mott

Placing a for-sale ad on Craigslist can help you banish clutter and put some cash in your pocket, all without paying a dime for most of the site's postings. To craft a listing that attracts the buyers you want to reach, showcase your item in concise prose within an ad that follows the rules established for the site's posting categories. Violating the site's Terms of Use and community standards can make your ad disappear, so familiarize yourself with how Craigslist works before you post.

Accuracy, Clarity, Completeness

Craigslist allows site visitors to flag ads for violations of its Terms of Use and its community standards. If you write a vague posting that omits important features, fails to clarify the asking price for an item or the payment for a job, or advertises something that Craigslist bans from its listings, expect to see your ad disappear. Likewise, if you fill a car ad title with meaningless phrases such as "Great Deal" or "Look Here" instead of providing a concise summary of features, options, color, year and mileage, the community of flaggers will descend on your posting. To firm up your understanding of how and why ads garner flags and how to avoid attracting them, visit the Craigslist Flag Help forum for advice from fellow community members. Before you post on the forum, read its posting rules and supply all the requested information.

Photo Quality

Most Craigslist posting categories accept up to eight images in each ad. Before you scavenge your hard drive for every photo you ever shot that includes the used bike or sofa you're trying to sell, remember that more images don't always make a better ad. Five blurry shots of the bike's rear wheel or your cousin sitting on the sofa arm don't give your ad the same sales power as a few clearly focused, well-composed photos that show important features of your item. Upload your best image first to take advantage of the "Pic View" feature that displays a zoomable thumbnail representation on search results and category lists. This thumbnail enlarges when a site visitor's cursor hovers over it.


If you're concerned about exposing your personal email address to anyone who reads your Craigslist ad, either set up a throwaway email account on a free site such as Yahoo or Gmail, or take advantage of Craigslist's Anonymize feature. Activate the "Anonymize" radio button while you're creating your ad and Craigslist will create an ad-specific email address through which it forwards all replies to your actual address. Your real address shows up on any replies you send to the people who contact you through anonymized replies, so you may prefer to use both the Craigslist feature and a separate email account.


Cashier's checks and money orders may be forged or stolen, even if they look crisply new and authentic, and your bank will demand the return of its funds if you deposit a bogus payment. To cut down on payment fraud, Craigslist advises sellers to require payment in cash and to accept it in person in a public place. Some items don't lend themselves to exchanging goods and money away from your home or office, especially large, heavy, hard-to-move items such as furniture or appliances. Before you let a stranger into your private domain, invite a friend or family member over to provide safety in numbers. To assure that the cash you receive comes from the U.S. Mint, invest in a banknote-testing pen to check for counterfeit bills.

About the Author

Elizabeth Mott has been a writer since 1983. Mott has extensive experience writing advertising copy for everything from kitchen appliances and financial services to education and tourism. She holds a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in English from Indiana State University.

Photo Credits

  • Hemera Technologies/ Images